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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The "Did You Knows" of Dialysis


If you have healthy kidneys, chances are you don't know much about what dialysis is. In fact, you probably don't know anything about it. I know I didn't. Here are a few key points I've learned from talking to those on dialysis (and a bit of Googling) about what dialysis is all about and  why we need more organ donors to step up! And yes, I still am not a doctor so this is not meant to be medical advice. You know where to go for that (not here).


Dialysis is the only treatment, other than transplantation, for end stage renal disease (ESRD). ESRD occurs when your kidney function drops below approximately 8-12%%, effectively meaning that your body can no longer rid itself of toxins on its own. Dialysis is a procedure that is a substitute for many of the normal duties of the kidneys.Without dialysis or a new kidney, people who are in this stage of kidney failure will die in a relatively short period of time as toxins and fluids build up in their bodies. And in case you were wondering, toxins are not a result of eating bad things, doing drugs, or drinking alcohol - many of the vitamins and minerals we consume are processed by the kidneys. If the kidneys can't process and regulate these properly, too much or too little of these nutrients can become harmful to our system. The kidneys also do other things like:
  • Balance the body’s fluids
  • Control blood pressure
  • Activate vitamin D to regulate bone health
  • Help stimulate the production of red blood cells
I always thought that if your kidneys fail, you went on dialysis and life went on as normal. Maybe a few appointments a week were a little inconvenient, but that was it. What I never understood was that dialysis is pretty unpleasant and the impact of being on dialysis on your day to day life is huge. I also didn't understand most people can't do dialysis indefinitely (I really thought they could). In fact even a few years can be too much for some people's bodies to handle (more to come on that in a separate blog post).

What makes dialysis unpleasant? Of course that is a subjective term but in a nutshell, here are some of the things that dialysis patients may face (these can depend on the type of dialysis they do):

  • Infection
  • Low blood pressure (causing nausea, fatigue and dizziness)
  • Weight gain
  • Extreme fatigue (to the point where working and daily activities are limited)
  • Hernias
  • Malnutrition
  • Itching/skin rash
Obviously each of these things has its own set of side effects as well. Most dialysis patients are also on special diets which limit fluid intake, many fruits and vegetables and have other strict requirements. The worst part is that patients go through all that and its only doing about 20% of the job healthy kidneys would.

I recently saw this video...it does a great job of explaining the different types of dialysis and what like is like when you are on it:




Obviously this post doesn't speak for every different person's experience with dialysis. Like any other serious disease, treatments and responses to treatments differ from patient to patient. What I wanted to try to do however, is give others like me (who know nothing about this treatment of ESRD) a sense of what dialysis is all about. It's the "why" behind why there needs to be more living and deceased donors.

For more information about kidney disease in Canada, causes, treatments and more, visit kidney.ca.

1 comment:

  1. Hello

    I live in South America, b+, male, willing donate one of my kidneys for free
    My contact: laurazione@yahoo.es

    ReplyDelete